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Friday, 5 April 2013

Pity the poor Grauniad

Pity the poor Grauniad. In the away-with-the-fairies world that many of its writers inhabit the issues couldn't be clearer; austerity measures should cause riots on the streets, the parks should be filled with homeless workers displaced by the housing benefit cuts, NHS workers should be on strike and in order to escape recession all the government has to do is employ more people at even higher wages in the public sector. It's a strange, twilight fantasy world and it's so out of touch with the country that one feels the hacks are continuing to write solely to an audience of each-other.

'Where are the sistas?' Wails the paper; 'where are the street activists?' and most puzzling of all to the hacks, why has the Guardian lost the fight for public support for welfare largesse? In fact, just getting the word 'welfare' back into common speech was half the victory; when this blog first started, using the word welfare was a bit like saying handicapped instead of disabled, or bastardy instead of illigitimacy. And there's another word for something that is more widely recognised than Guardian hacks would ever imagine - the concept of an underclass. Mick Philpott exemplifies membership; idle, welfare-scrounging, violent, sexually exploitative, poorly educated, a nightmare neighbour, costing the rest of us a disproportionate fortune in police and criminal justice, social work, special education, health and housing and management services. Everyone who lives in contact with them at some level recognises them - except Guardian hacks, from whose Strawberry Hill gothic villas such life is invisible. 

You see, if the Guardian's Leveson-loving writers (with a few honourable exceptions) were proper hacks instead of luvvies playing Lady Bountiful, they'd be running columns headed 'Where are the journalists?' For there seem few resident at York Way, N1.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Unintended consequences

I don't know why, but this made me smile this morning. 

You may have noticed a newish trend for retro-fitting external wall insulation to blocks of flats; 4" or so of mineral wool batts covered in a coloured render. Not only do they dramatically cut heating bills for those in old solid-walled apartments, they are proving very popular with green woodpeckers. Once they're through the render on a corner, it's short work to create a warm, snug, waterproof home to raise a family in at safe treetop level. And as birds learn very quickly from each-other, these are proving more popular than the harder work of hollowing out a burrow in a live tree.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The devil is always in the detail

Back on 6th March I quoted Ambrose Evans-Pritchard - "An internal devaluation is achieved (under EMU) by forcing unemployment to such excruciating levels that it breaks the back of labour resistance to pay cuts. It is the polar opposite of a currency devaluation that spreads the pain" - to precis the Eurozone's approach to the crisis, to squeeze real wages whilst leaving the profits of firms and corporates intact. 

The Guardian reprints a piece that underlines Draghi's innate mendacity in letting this particular cat out of the bag; he recently presented a chart showing each Eurozone country's real output value (i.e. excluding inflation) against each's nominal (i.e. including inflation) wage growth. 

The point Draghi was making was that the blue countries (Germany & co) were 'balanced' whilst the naughty red Club Med countries had let wages outstrip productivity and therefore breaking the back of labour resistance to pay cuts was the answer. 

In fact this isn't the case.

Labour cash for Blow-ins

It can be hard being a blow-in, parachuted into a strange constituency miles from home about which you know nothing, yet with huge expectations from London party HQ over your ability to clock-up votes for the Party. The Guardian quotes Peter Wall, former Labour General Secretary "If you can't afford to take a couple of months off work, pay for accommodation and travel, abandon your family and pay for your own materials you are screwed. In other words you need to be a political insider whose boss is supporting them; a trade union official or very rich". Labour's answer, it seems, is more cash for Blow-ins. But wait; what's this in the same story?
"After 12 years of David Miliband as MP, the local Labour party has opted for a local candidate, a woman born and raised in the area. Karen is a bus driver with a disabled husband, who has lived in a three-bedroom home for years – but the coalition thinks they have too much space and has cut their housing benefit."
Hmm. So no need to pay for accommodation and travel there then, or for Karen to abandon her family. And since she's a local choice, local party members will be more willing to pay for 'materials'. It's unlikely her bus company will give her paid time-off, but as she's on income support anyway that may not be too much of a blow. And with a PSV she can drive the party campaign coach, to boot. And with every confidence that she'll be elected she will face a new dilemma; whether as a serving MP to continue to occupy a three bed Council house ...

Monday, 1 April 2013

Plastic History from the BBC

I sat through BBC's 'The Village' wondering why a production so lavishly funded would be so short of horses. The story was ostensibly about a farmer attempting to harvest a huge, post-war sized field of wheat by himself with a scythe. And no horses. One wondered how he had ploughed the field in the first instance - perhaps he harnessed his downtrodden wife and sons to the plough. And no farmworkers, either; in reality, even small farmers in 1914 employed several agricultural labourers, particularly a farmer who owned his farm, one of the rural elite when a tenancy for two or three lives was the norm. And though the thing was called 'The Village' it was actually a small market town, complete with municipal baths in which the town's women spent their leisurely day like Roman matriarchs. Public baths in reality of course were for public hygiene rather than leisure; places of carbolic soap and harsh treatment to rid a crowded town's poor of lice and fleas.

Either the writer Peter Moffat knows very little of his history, or this is yet another deliberate distortion of history by the BBC. The Telegraph's TV critic Ben Lawrence knows no better either; "This was drama as history where the past is definitely another country" he writes this morning. Dickhead.

This isn't petty picking at minor problems of costume or props - a Sam Browne worn the wrong way, or a car not yet in production - the whole thing is so fundamentally flawed, so historically dishonest as to do real harm to the memory of the harshness of pre-Great War rural life. So, in place of this sanitised, plastic BBC history I offer you two good alternatives;
washing the corpse - from das Weisse Band
First, Michael Haneke's 'Der weisse Band' - available in full length on Youtube though with Spanish subtitles

The second of course is Peter Hall's 1974 film 'Akenfield' - still available on DVD, but this clip gives a flavour. With horses.